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As Indonesia passes castration law for child rapists, where does India stand?

In 2011, a Delhi sessions judge had suggested chemical castration for child rapists as an alternative to jail term. While acknowledging that it might not be the perfect solution to inhibit child molestation, the judge said it would certainly discourage sexual assault better than incarceration

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Taking a tough stance against child abuse, Indonesia’s parliament has passed controversial laws authorising chemical castration, minimum sentences and execution for convicted paedophiles. ‘Castration’ is a much-debated topic with human rights’ activists like the Amnesty International saying that that it is nothing but ‘adding one cruelty to another’.

Indonesia took such a step after a series of high profile cases of child sexual abuse shocked the country, the latest being the brutal gang rape-cum-murder of a 14-year-old girl named Yuyun, who was abducted on her way home from school and was gangraped by 12 men and boys in Sumatra in April.

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Yuyun (above right in a family photograph released by her mother) was walking home from school when she was killed in Indonesia in April. Photo courtesy: Daily Mail

The laws were subject to fierce debate in parliament, with two opposition parties voting against castration. Even as the rights and wrongs of this law are being debated, Indonesia is not the first country to introduce the castration law. It is legal in countries like Poland, South Korea, Turkey, Russia and some parts of the US. In Europe, convicted child molesters in Denmark, Germany, Great Britain, Switzerland and Sweden are given the option of undergoing chemical treatments to reduce or eliminate their sex drive, and the Czech Republic has a controversial surgical castration programme that has been called “invasive, irreversible and mutilating” by the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture, but which the Czech government argues is effective in preventing recidivism, a news report in Guardian states.

In India, too, it is a hot potato with the debate centred on legal and moral aspect and the moot question is whether it can reform the offender.

In 2011, a Delhi sessions judge had suggested chemical castration for child rapists as an alternative to jail term. While acknowledging that it might not be the perfect solution to inhibit child molestation, the judge said it would certainly discourage sexual assault better than incarceration.

Similarly, in 2015, a Madras High Court judgment asked the central government to consider castration as punishment for those convicted in rape cases where the victims are children.

The JS Verma Committee, formed to revamp the criminal laws in the country after the Delhi Nirbhaya incident, rejected the proposition of castration as punishment calling it ‘unconstitutional’ and that it “fails to treat the social foundations of rape”.

Moreover, castration as punishment does not sit well with the Indian judiciary system that focuses of reformation and rehabilitation, rather than retribution.

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